the inside story
Along the southwest border, at detention centers, at ports of entry and in too many immigration court jurisdictions around the United States, constitutional norms and the law of asylum have vanished. U.S. Government actors – immigration courts, prosecutors, enforcement agents, detention centers – use mass incarceration, procedural obstacles, power asymmetries, and opacity to obstruct and ultimately prevent bona fide asylum-seekers from obtaining fair adjudication of the merits of the claims. Meritorious cases lose because of legally dubious structural inequities not because of their merit. Women, children and entire families are detained for profit.
The Big Immigration Law project addresses the intractable problem of building durable justice-centered immigrant and refugee legal norms across the country particularly in those jurisdictions that are most hostile to the rule of law. The Big Immigration Law project is the collectivization of immigrant defense to form a superstructure of immigration advocacy aimed at a focal point. Its effectiveness lies in nationalizing immigrant defense to address a discrete issue with a measurable advocacy goal. It uses transformative direct legal services to create high-visibility advocacy and impact litigation to shape justice-centered immigrant and refugee legal norms.
The project builds power to address the asymmetry in power between the individual noncitizen and the federal government’s enforcement mechanisms. Big Immigration Law creates a common core of shared knowledge about a particular problem, engages uncommon and nontraditional advocates, and crowd-sources problem-solving. The project is geographically and substantively focused on unsettling entrenched understandings of fairness in immigration law that have been rooted in the limits of the Due Process Clause. At its core, the project is about creating adjudication ecosystems so that every meritorious case wins every time.
The project aggregates data – more than 200 discrete data points – including narrative about the substantive claims and government practices. The data is available in real-time. Critically, advocates and litigators have access to the data to provide additional structural support to re-building rule of law principles along the border, in detention centers, and in hostile jurisdictions through high-impact advocacy and impact litigation.
The model relies on data and collectivization to construct an advocacy superstructure that augments the advocacy. It collects and analyzes data about the entire ecosystem in which it operates. It collects and analyzes data about its clients, but also its advocates, its adversaries, its legal milieu, and its outcomes. The data is collected during the course of direct representation in a seamless manner. It supports segmentation and nationalization. It provides the source for high-visibility advocacy and impact litigation. It enables data-driven legal arguments, data-driven policy arguments, and data-driven advocacy points that offset the government’s prior monopoly on large-scale empirical claims. This is essential because the immigration enforcement actors and their litigators have demonstrated a disregard for empirical evidence in their litigation and have distorted information for litigation advantage to the detriment of better public policy.
The data enables lawyers to act as a hive-mind, providing advice in real time to advocates on the ground, sharing information about developments, and engaging in strategic planning around the identified goal. Together, the data and collectivized advocacy form a superstructure with a national framework and a localized focus.
The Centers of Excellence are coordinated holistic legal strategy networks within designated jurisdictions whose central goal is to build and maintain healthy immigration adjudication ecosystems so that every meritorious case wins every time. The COEs are part of the Big Immigration Law Project and are modeled on the Big Immigration Law theory that uses collaboration and data aggregation to provide robust representation to win cases. The COEs directly challenge policies the mass incarceration and deportation of immigrants living within the COE-designated jurisdiction.
The COE are comprised of a vanguard of attorneys and legal advocates, an expert technical assistance team, and advocacy teams which are all coordinated by a specialist from the Law Lab. The teams rely on an integrated advocacy and communications strategy, intensive data collection and dissemination via the technology developed by the Innovation Law Lab, and strategizing in a collaborative space in order to win every meritorious case every time.
The Vanguard is a select group of attorneys who litigate complex or novel immigration cases and collaborate by sharing information, strategy, tactics, and talent with each other and allied advocates in order to establish effective practices for stakeholders, advance a due process-centric approach to adjudication and promote access to counsel. Attorneys participating in the vanguard receive special support from an expert technical assistance team on case development, case theory, witness preparation, and more as well as access to curriculum-based trainings that focus on substantive and procedural law, trainings for strategic and tactical decision making, access to the LawLab case management system, and curated expert declarations and templates and the Law Lab’s client concierge to facilitate attorney/client interactions.